SUPER RUGBY AU – ROUND TWO PREVIEW

The Reds and the Brumbies set Australian rugby into action last weekend in a cracking opening round of fixtures, making short work of the Waratahs and Force on the season opening Friday night. This weekend the Reds host the Rebels and the Brumbies welcome the Waratahs with the Force sitting out round two on the bye. Shane was again a champion to come on and have his say again this season and you can catch that stream below and be sure to turn into the channel on Youtube on a Thursday afternoon to catch the stream each and every week! If you want a quick overview, check out below the video!

REDS vs REBELS – Reds +11

The Reds open the round up again this weekend against the Rebels who are having their first run out of the season. The Reds were nothing short of fantastic in their opening match, destroying the woeful Waratahs. Their performance will fill them with plenty of confidence and with only one change to the starting side, adding Taniela Tupou to the front row. Expect to see much more from the Reds in round two and a similar score line as well.

After the bye in the first round, the Rebels need to smash the ground running in their opening encounter. The Rebels would have been watching the opening round with high hopes of establishing a game plan against the Reds but would only be left with with fears of how they will contain their opponents. Naming a side the resembles something similar to a patchwork quilt, with areas of strength matched next to sever lacks of experience and talent. Joe Powell and Matt To’omua will be a a critical piece of the Rebels puzzle.

BRUMBIES vs WARATAHS – Brumbies +13

If you thought the opening round was a bit of a mismatch blow out round, then we may be seeing some more of that in round two as well. The Brumbies know how to play, how to win and how to execute their game plan. They are well structured and play well to their strengths. Its a near international level pack that will easily control the set piece and breakdown and keep the side on the front foot and even their midfield with Ikitau made an impact in round one. The side is settled and will see very little change to their line up this week.

Can the Waratahs play any worse than last week!? Its hard to imagine Rob Penny will allow that to happen two weeks in a row. As you would expect, the axe has hung over the squad. Angus Bell returns with Harry Johnson-Holmes pair up for a formidable front row which will be tested. The ‘tahs back row plays well enough with the young Tizzano paired up with some experience of Swinton and Dempsey. The big loss will be Jake Gordon who is out for some time which is a huge loss and leaves a massive hole, Jake Grant grabs the nine shirt. Tepai Moeroa and Mark Nawaqanitawase move into the backline which will add some firepower to the backline, especially Nawaqanitawase. While its a positive step for the Waratahs, it wont change the result for the visitors…..

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

SUPER RUGBY AU – ROUND ONE REVIEW

Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere is finally back in action, albeit with just the two Friday night matches from Australia this weekend. The Reds hosted the Waratahs with plenty of talking points and was followed by the Force who finally got to play at home and welcomed the Brumbies to town in Perth. Lets take a look at the games.

REDS 41 vs 7 WARATAHS

The Reds came into this game as firm favourites against the Waratahs but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock first and it took just a few minutes for new captain Jake Gordon to open the account in the left corner. It was smart play by the scrumhalf who followed the play across the field and found himself in space from Jack Maddocks half break and an on the ground offload. That was to be the last moment of joy for the Waratahs however as the Reds firmly took over the game after that.

While Jordan Petaia was caught short defensively in the opening try, he certainly made up for it soon after. The first Reds points came off the boot of James O’Connor and quickly after Petaia sparked a play from their own half, keeping the ball alive through hands and finding the pace of Jock Campbell to finish for the Reds and put them into the lead for the first time.

The Reds continued the dominate the gain line following the try and made easy meters up the field and into the Waratahs twenty-two in a flash. Less than five minutes after their first try, the Reds were in again, Alex Mafi tipping the cap to his 50th cap by charging over off a short pass to extend the lead.

We were less than twenty minutes into the game and the Reds struck for a third time and signalled troubling times for the Waratahs. That combination of Petaia and Daugunu at it again from deep. TMO had been busy during the first half, with both Campbell’s and Daugunu’s tries being looked at for possible forward passes but were decided OK from upstairs.

With half time calling, things went even worse for the Waratahs. Midfielder Izaia Perese picking up Hunter Paisami and dumping him on his head to give a clear call for the referee to dish out the first card of the season and it was red for Perese. Of course with the new laws in Super Rugby AU, after twenty minutes Perese would be allowed to be replaced.

The game dragged its way into the break with the Reds in control at 27-7.

The match changed in the second half as the Reds knew they had complete control of the fixture. A man advantage for almost half of the second forty and a strong twenty point lead, they slowed the game down and forced the Waratahs to bring the game to them and make something happen.

That remained the case until the final ten minutes when a set piece chance proved too tasty for the Reds to ignore. Off the back of the scrum Moses Sorovi scampered away to the right and dropped the ball on the superb inside line from Daugunu, completely missed from the Waratahs defence and let a clean run for the sparkling winger to grab his second try of the match and to put this far beyond doubt.

The cherry on top was added by debutant Ilaisa Droasese who flew over on the right edge after his side just let things fly at the end of the match. A first appearance and a try to go with it, things couldn’t have got much better for the Reds. The score line was never close once the Reds got things going.

An early fright from the Waratahs was the only highlight for the visitors and the Reds controlled the game as many expected. A bonus point win and a cracking first up display that O’Connor thought left plenty to improve on…. that’s a scary thought.

The Reds pack deserves most of my credit. Seru Uru, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson were all fantastic for the Reds.

For the Waratahs it was Jake Gordon who led from the front and was sorely missed when he went off injured. New comer Carlo Tizzano was also impressive tonight.

The biggest win ever for the Reds over the Waratahs and the perfect start to the Reds season. Now how is their consistency?…. We find out next week, But a bonus point win is the ultimate way to kick off a season.

FORCE 11 vs 27 BRUMBIES

Its been such a long time between drinks at home for the Force but the day has finally come! The crowd were buzzing and the expectation was intriguing! The defending champion Brumbies will always be a tough side to match up with regardless of venue, but this is a great opportunity for the Force, both sides starting off with tidy committed play. A late change saw Richard Kahui into the starting line up in place of Kyle Godwin.

The Force are first onto the scoreboard after just five minutes, grabbing the penalty from the boot of Ian Prior. The more encouraging factor however was the clean carries from key new players in the Force lineup, Medrano, Lezana and Kearney all having time with ball in hand.

Both sides blew chances to add points soon after. The Brumbies set about their typical rolling maul five meters out but someone’s changed that channel as the Force manage to halt it and force the Brumbies to use the backs. The created chance finds Hansen clear out wide but the pass was called forward on the field by the ref, something we didn’t see in the opening match.

The Force ruck ball was lightning quick and caused the Brumbies defence all sorts of trouble, catching them offside and out of position. That gave the chance to double their score line but Prior’s attempt struck back off the upright and the Brumbies escaped, got a free ride of penalties up the field and Noah Lolesio was gifted his first shot at goal which he easily put home for 3-3.

The Brumbies finally struck over the line midway through the half, Nic White dancing on the twenty two, zig zagging in and out of defenders and slipping a short flat pass to an extraordinary line from Noah Lolesio who went in unopposed. The Force has perhaps been the better side but they have started losing their shape and pace in the game, which will cause much concern at half time.

The Force pick up a huge second wind just after the thirty minute mark and completely regain control of the game. The quick ball is back, the penalties are flowing and the Force are going only to the corners. They drive continually at the line and eventually crash over but the referee disallows the try for a double movement. The dream of half time oranges is driving the Force back into the attacking zone again, but sensibly this time take the three points to bring them within four.

After all the hard work from the Force, they let the Brumbies right back in with a penalty right on the stroke of half time.

A run of errors by the home team in the last few minutes will leave a sour taste for the half time break with the score at 13-6.

Its the start of dreams for the Brumbies in the second half. Len Ikitau carves the defensive line with precision and finds the cut inside from his midfield partner Irae Simone to slide in for the try. The Force defence has looked in control so far but was caught out with the acceleration of Ikitau to give the Brumbies a controlling lead for the first time.

Despite the score line, the Force have been right in this match up and may have finally got a chance to turn some more chances into points as James Slipper is sent to the bin after his side has received many “final warnings” from the referee. The crowd is full of energy but the Force struggle to make the finishing plays, even a man up.

Rugby is a game of fine margins and the Force’s lack of ability to finish off their chances and domination of possession and territory throughout the second half will be a massive disappointment to the side. The Brumbies on the other hand, lack none of those issues. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa showing some silky skills and the major difference between the two sides, finishing. From the scrum, Tom Banks line and speed scorches past a labouring Kahui and creates the overlap. 27-6 and game done in the final ten minutes.

But that is not excuse for the Force who never lack for determination and giving it a crack regardless of score or game situation. Tomas Cubelli gets the credit for the try, but it was all created by the forwards who won the ball off their own kick off and quickly set about working in the red zone. This time keeping it tight and working close to the line, it was Cubelli’s sharp work around the fringe that creates the first try for the Force.

The Force battled to the very end, controlling even more key passages of the game but just cant find the lollies at the end. Even after the final buzzer, the forwards battled close to the Brumbies line but failed to keep the ball in hand. A lot of promise, but the Brumbies just too clinical with the chances created.

Standout performer from the home Force side was Fergus Lee-Warner who carried hard all night long, constantly meeting the gain line and defended with power. The Force didn’t have too many standout and played better as a squad as it went on but also plenty to work on. Rob Kearney was a clear talent at this level and a big improvement for the Force at the back with some classy touches.

For the Brumbies Cayden Neville was a thorn in the Force side all night long. Disrupting ruck ball, defusing mauls and being a general nuisance throughout the game. One of those guys who isn’t flashy but the impact he had on the match was massive. So many Force errors were made because of his impact.

Not what the Force would have wanted as a result and exactly what we expected from the Brumbies in round one. The Force will get better and I feel will trouble the Waratahs and Rebels at this stage. Its a two horse race at the top already, Brumbies and Reds are the teams to beat!

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

SUPER RUGBY AU IS BACK! ROUND ONE PREVIEW

Its here and its back! This weekend kicks off the opening round of Super Rugby AU and we had a look at the two matches this weekend on a stream earlier in the week, Shane was again a champion to come on and have his say again this season and you can catch that stream below and be sure to turn into the channel on Youtube to catch the stream each and every week! If you want a quick overview, check out below the video!

REDS vs WARATAHS – REDS +8

Its the old fashion Queensland vs New South Wales derby clash to kick off the season, the same opener as in 2020 Super Rugby AU. It was a huge year for the Reds last season who really stepped up over the season to make it all the way to the final and really push the eventual winning Brumbies. Their pack should dominate the fixture and their backs are by far the superior in the match up but the Waratahs know how to keep in a match.

Missing a pile of experience this year, the Waratahs need to open up the depth on their talent. Its quite and unknown just how good that will be. Plenty of names who have starred off the bench recently will now be called on the lead from the start. The lack of experience need to be controlled by the future star at ten, in Will Harrison.

I’m expecting this to be a close match for the opening 40-50 minutes but the Reds should have the talent and power off the bench to put this one in their favour.

FORCE vs BRUMBIES – BRUMBIES +5

What have they been drinking in Perth!? The names they have picked up for this team is extraordinary! A number of Jaguares have been added to the mix which will definitely add some grunt in key areas. The cool head of Rob Kearney at fullback will be another key addition but the only issue is how well will they gel and will they last those eighty minutes once again….

The Brumbies, like much of the Australian teams, have lost a wealth of talent but more importantly have keep a huge core of their side. Expect that to be what they rely on once again and most of that will be in the pack with that patient set piece and forward based play. Expect to see Folau Fainga’a up the try scoring leader board again.

If the Force are to stand any hope, they need to score early, score quickly and then keep the Brumbies at bay as they will expectantly surge home late regardless of score line. Its a matchup of who gets along better and you would expect the Brumbies should tick that box.

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

WHO’S BEEN LIGHTING UP THE MITRE 10 CUP?

With the Mitre 10 Cup over halfway through, the Super Rugby squad announcements are edging closer. Some franchises have already been busy, with the Hurricanes and Crusaders announcing several contract renewals, whilst the Highlanders have announced a trio of signings, along with confirming Tony Brown as their new head coach this morning. Many players have impressed, and most of the Super squads will be all but finalised, so I thought it would be a good idea to see which player from each Mitre 10 Cup team, is in line for a Super contract.

SOUTHLAND

The southernmost union in the Mitre 10 Cup have enjoyed their best season in recent memory, all be it that was not that difficult. New coach Dale McLeod has them playing some very strong, defensively tight footy which has seen the best of some of their forwards. Joe Walsh could well be in line for a deal after spending time with the Blues last season, whilst Greg Pleasants-Tate has arguably been their best performer. The player, who has impressed the most for me though, is Amanaki Nicole. The 28-year-old NZ Sevens rep, has scored just the one try, but has fed off scraps all season. He is big in size which is desirable in the modern game also. Nicole has broken tackles with ease and has a decent turn of pace. At 28, he is not young which may turn people off, but he could be an option for the Hurricanes to replace Kobus Van Wyk.

OTAGO

The Golden O has enjoyed an interesting start to the Mite 10 Cup season. Generally, the bridesmaid, but not the bride in the Championship, they have already held and lost the Ranfurly Shield. Tom Donnelly was promoted to the head coach role, and along with experimental assistants Lee Allan and Ryan Martin, they have played some attractive rugby. With a backline full of Super Rugby experience, and a pack who also has experience at higher levels, there is certainly slim pickings. Freedom Vaahakolo was brought down to Dunedin by the Highlanders, and has not disappointed so far in 2020, he is not small, but equally he is not huge either. He certainly has a nose for the try line. One of the unsung heroes of the team this season, has been Irish lock Jack Regan. Regan has been in New Zealand for a short while and managed to crack the Otago squad this season. A strong performance off the bench in round one, earned him a start in round two, and he has not relinquished his starting birth. With a 95% tackle percentage, he has shown a real hard nose. The Highlanders are said to be looking for a lock, whilst the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Blues may also be keen.

CANTERBURY

Known for closing out close games, Canterbury have stumbled in that department in 2020, losing three matches, all by one point. The side certainly is a little lighter on talent this season, but they are still strong. Young midfield backs Rameka Pohipi and Isaiah Punivai have shown touches of class but are still quite raw. Josh McKay is of course without a deal, and will surely be scooped up by another franchise, whilst Sevens Rep Andrew Knewstubb looks to be hitting his straps, but he is unlikely to be contracted. Upfront, Sam Darry has looked very good, but he is of course already signed to the Blues. A man who has slipped under the radar a bit is Shilo Klein. The American born hooker, is diminutive in size, measuring up at just 176cm, but he makes up for that in heart. He has carried the ball strongly, and clearly has the faith of the Canterbury coaches, playing the full 80 on a couple of occasions this season. At just 21, he could be a good option as a third-choice hooker. Whether it be the Crusaders, the Blues or the Chiefs, it would not be a surprise to see him in the picture on Super Signing Day.

TASMAN

The Mako are undoubtedly the most stacked union in New Zealand. Arguably the smallest region, it is very impressive. Laden with All Blacks, every week there is a mix of youth and experience. In amongst the All Blacks and Super Rugby talent, there have been some impressive youngsters- especially in the forwards. Front rowers Issac Salmon (Who has already seen some game time at the higher level) and Sam Matenga have looked like good prospects, along with Ryan Coxon who is not currently contracted for SRA 2021. They have had a locking crisis, but the mobile Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta has stood up. A strong ball carrier, who can put in a crunching tackle, but the man I think is line for a Super deal is Jacob Norris. Originally from the Waikato, Norris moved to the south to join the Crusaders Academy, and as a result has ended up at Tasman. Just like many others, the flanker he has been nailing people in the tackle, whilst has also shown strength over the ball. Norris is clearly a talent, but his issue may be lack of space in the squads. There could well be a spot at the Crusaders, as openside flanker Billy Harmon headed south to the Highlanders.

WELLINGTON

The men from the capital, have enjoyed mixed fortunes this season. Six games in they sit 3-3, but it could have been so much more. They dropped a silly game against Otago, whilst they suffered heartbreak in extra time against Canterbury. Along with that, they beaten the star-studded Auckland team, so it would not be harsh to describe them as inconsistent. Julian Savea has of course been playing for them, and it would be a surprise if he was not playing for the Hurricanes next season, as he has proved that he has improved his game. Halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, has impressed, and will likely be picked up by the Hurricanes to replace TJ Perenara. The two men, who have caught the eye the most though are their hookers. James O’Reilly has been impressive since returning from a ban, but the name on everyone’s lips is young Tyrone Thompson. With Aumua, Coles and O’Reilly all unavailable, Thompson took his opportunity, making headlines for his 50m effort against the Bay of Plenty, bumping off several defenders on his way to the chalk. He is very similar to Aumua, with a strong running game clear to see. He is still quite raw, so he would really only be an apprentice next season. With the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Crusaders all already having two strong hookers, the Chiefs and the Blues could be the sides to battle it out for his signature.

MANAWATU

2020 has been a tough year for the Manawatu Turbos. Six games, six defeats, and they appear headed for the wooden spoon. There have been little positives for a squad lacking in talent, but their work rate at times, has been admirable. The backs have lacked a little quality overall, with struggles at first five especially. The forwards have feared a little better, especially in tight. Utility Micaiah Torrance-Read has seen a lot of game time, and whilst he has not always shone, he has shown good signs. The man that has shone the brightest is TK Howden. Howden is very young, just out of school so to see a tight forward playing at this sort of level is unusual. He looks to be one for the future, so he may only find himself a development contract, but that should not matter.

TARANAKI

The promotion favourites for many this season, Taranaki have underperformed in 2020. After a stellar start with the Barrett brothers, they were on top of the world and the holders of the Ranfurly Shield- but things unravelled. They now sit fourth, with a 3-3 record after snapping their losing streak against Southland. There have however been some positives. Kaylum Boshier and Tom Florence look like ones for the future, whilst Josh Lord has put in several strong showing, but the star of the show, has undoubtedly been Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens. The outside back first caught the eye in their Ranfurly Shield raid but has managed to maintain that form throughout the season scoring five tries. Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens has represented the New Zealand Sevens side, and at just 19, he has experience in several different backline positions. The Highlanders are said to be looking for a big outside back, and he could well be that man. The Hurricanes, Chiefs and Blues could also do with his services.

HAWKES BAY

The current holders of the Ranfurly Shield, Hawkes Bay currently sit top of the Championship. The Magpies have a young squad, yet one that is full of Super experience. The returning Lolagi Visinia has bulked up, and weighs in at over 100kg, and could well find a Super Rugby deal. A return to the Blues perhaps? The man, that I have gone with though, is Lincoln McClutchie it is a surprise to many, that the diminutive first five has not already secured a Super Rugby deal, but this year feels like the year. After a bit of time in Japan, McClutchie has only refined his game, making better decisions around the park. There is no doubt he has the pace and ball skills, but questions still remain about his kicking game, especially his goal kicking. He is still good enough to earn a Super Rugby Deal, with the Chiefs surely his most likely destination.

BAY OF PLENTY

The 2020 season has not been kind to the Bay of Plenty. They sit bottom of the pile, level on points with North Harbour. They have not lived up to their standards of last season, for one reason or another and that will be disappointing for them. The side has a fair chunk of Super experience, but many players are either on the older side or underperforming. This is why, I am choosing to shine the light on Nathan Vella. Vella is 30 years of age and spent the 2020 season with the Highlanders as injury cover. He already has one Super Cap to his name with Hurricanes. He is probably unlikely to get a contract, but with the injury of Kurt Eklund, the hooker has been classy. Brilliant at the breakdown, with a strong work ethic round the park, he has been one of the best for the Steamers. If one of the sides is on the lookout for a third choice, then they could do worse than Vella.

WAIKATO

The Mooloo men have surprised the masses in 2020, to sit second in the Premiership. This was no better expressed by their 16-15 upset win over Canterbury last week, thanks to a try well after the fulltime whistle. The match showed off many of their classy youngsters, with Rivez Reihana kicking the winning goal. Robb Cobb is another who has been strong this season, but the man who has stolen the show for them this season, is Xavier Roe. The livewire scrumhalf raised eyebrows after a dominant performance against TJ Perenara, in Waikato’s round one demolition of Wellington. From there, he has gone from strength to strength. With an aggressive running game, and a crisp pass, he is very similar to Brad Weber. He has shown a nose for the try line, and the 21-year-old is surely inline for a Super Rugby deal. Whether it be the it the Hurricanes, the Chiefs or even the Highlanders, Roe could be an astute addition for the future.

COUNTIES-MANUKAU

The Steelers have not been good at all in 2020. Despite having a decent looking side on paper, especially in the backline, but they sit second from bottom, with one solitary win. They have looked lacklustre, lacking direction meaning not many have shone. At times, Kirisi Kuridrani has shown why the Highlanders signed him up, but one would think he is uncontracted for next season. With no uncapped players really in line for a Super a deal, a man who could well be picked up if injuries strike is Alamanda Motuga. The loose forward is not the biggest, so he is certainly an openside flanker only at the next level. He had his performance of the season last time out against Otago, making several tackles throughout the match. Motuga plays in the most stacked position in New Zealand, but if injuries were to strike, Motuga could find the Blues come knocking.

AUCKLAND

After a shaky start to the season, Auckland have started to shake off the cobwebs, and somehow find themselves top of the table with just one defeat. They have been poor at times but have managed to scrape some important wins. Salesi Rayasi has of course been superb and should see increased game time with the Hurricanes next season. Several of their forwards have impressed this season, with Adrian Choat yet another good number seven, whilst Leni Apisai is on the search to re-earn a Super deal and has done himself no harm. The man who I want to take a closer look at though, as AJ Lam. The younger brother of Ben Lam is only 22 and looks to have buckets of potential. Whilst Rayasi has stolen the headlines, Lam has been just as good. Similar to his brother, he is big and powerful and could well have a career as successful as his brother. He looks to be skilful and has come in for praise from many this season, including Jeff Wilson. This has seen him linked with the Highlanders, as they attempt to find a big physical winger. If that was not to materialise, it would be a surprise not to see him earn a contract somewhere.

NORTH HARBOUR

Suffering from severe financial issues, many expected North Harbour to fall flat this season. They have battled well though, and currently sit sixth, just clear of the Bay of Plenty. Bryn Gatland has shown some career best form, whilst the returning Nic Mayhew has also shone. They have a several other guys who have experienced Super Rugby, leaving a couple of guys. Tim Sail, an openside flanker who has shown quality in limited minutes, but the undoubted standout in this category is James Little. The cousin of Michael Little has been around for a new season, but some time with the China Lions has seen him refine his game. His defensive efforts have been solid this year, with an 85% tackle percentage, as well as securing a few turnovers. With ball in hand he has been solid without being spectacular and could be a real facilitator for one of the Super sides. Probably more of a backup at this stage of his career, the Blues could do worse than the local lad.

NORTHLAND

The Taniwha have started the 2020 season well and sit in the running for promotion. One important point is they have faced five Championship sides in their first six matches, so the bigger tests are yet to come. The side is a combination of youngsters putting their Super Rugby experience to good use, along with returning veterans. With slim pickings, Pisi Leilua has had some nice touches, but following the trend in New Zealand, Jordan Olsen is aging like a fine wine. Promoted to skipper for the 2020 season, Olsen has gone strength to strength. His leadership has clearly been strong, whilst his tackling his also been solid. Olsen fits into the category of a backup rake, and sides could certainly do work especially if injuries strike.

So, these are the fourteen players, who have not (or barely) experienced Super Rugby, who could be in line for contracts come Super Signing Day. A mix of youth and experience, they all fill different roles. What it does show, is New Zealand is not lacking in hookers and openside flankers!

Did I get your team right? Let me know in the comments and share this around! Make sure to subscribe to Behind the Posts, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @NicholasFriedl3 to see all my work and poor opinions!

SUPER RUGBY AU – Qualifying Final Preview

Just one game to enjoy this weekend from Super Rugby AU, with the regular season complete, its all on the line for a place in the final to meet the Brumbies for the trophy.

REDS vs REBELS – Suncorp Stadium

REDS:

We started off with five teams, its now shrunk down to three. The Brumbies are waiting in the final the meet the victor of this match up.

The Reds got here by virtual of finishing the regular season in second position behind the Brumbies and even beating them convincingly in the final match of the season.

This Reds team is exciting and aside from one terribly poor weekend against the Waratahs have been continuously up there as the team to watch this season.

The Reds attacking flair has taken itself to a whole new level this season, being the leading team in a number of key attacking statistics throughout the season. Clean breaks, meters carried, defenders beaten and offloads are all areas the Reds have topped which just goes to show what they can do.

They displayed that against the Brumbies last weekend and have been well switched on in recent weeks. James O’Connor and Tate McDermott are the best halves combination in Australia right now and are getting the best from their backline.

The Reds back row has dominated rucks and broken play, forming a key partnership with the link between forwards and backs. Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson and names that will be huge part of Australian rugby for years to come.

REBELS:

The Rebels have been good in patches, but the way they scratched and scraped their way into the playoffs is a real nutshell of how this teams season really has been.

Lets take nothing away from the Rebels who have made a playoffs of the tournament for the first time in their history, even if only five teams were involved, but only ended up in third by a single point over the Waratahs and only a fifty percent winning record over the season. Although they did draw with the Reds and beat the Brumbies.

So if those last few words tell you anything, its that the Rebels can show up against the big team and you would almost give them a better chance at winning the final the making it past the Reds this weekend.

The Rebels don’t put themselves as league leaders in many categories, but the two that they do lead give exactly their game plan away. Kicks from hand and penalty goals, play the territory game and force the opponent into errors inside their own half.

They did they to good effect against the Force last weekend, but what they don’t have an answer for is the opponent actually making exits and being able to put away their attacking chances, the Force took those chances pretty well too and should show the way to play against the Rebels, if only the Force could exit from restarts…….

Matt To’omua is the guy for the Rebels, his goal kicking got them into the play offs and will go a long way to them going any further.

I mentioned it in the round ten review as well, but Matt Philip has really taken control of the pack and his leadership has lifted it over the season. Its a team overall that has lacked leaders and you can certainly tell where they have developed over the season.

Reece Hodge is the other big key to the Rebels season. He has that uncanny ability to score tries from unlikely situations. He displays such great strength and determination on attack. His boot is always a big asset, although we haven’t seen it much this season, I expect the Rebels will call on it if the opportunity arises this weekend.

Overall, I cant see this game going anywhere but to the Reds. They tick all the boxes to get this job done, but don’t throw the Rebels out the window quite yet. Discipline and pressure will be things to watch. The Reds do give away some tasty penalties and if they attack doesn’t spark the game could quickly slip away in groups of three.

The Rebels defence will need to be on fire, but they know the points will be there from the tee. Both sides have simple tasks to take the game away from the other, which results, surely, in what should be an intriguing match for a place in the final!

RESULT – Reds by 6

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

SUPER RUGBY AU – Round Ten Review

The Rebels season lay in balance at the beginning of the weekend, needing a win by four points to make it to the finals for the first every time with the ultimate banana skin, the Force were waiting to strike. The final round of Super Rugby AU almost had it all. The top two sides clashed to end the regular season in a match the had nothing but bragging rights for sides already finals bound. It was an unexpected round of Super Rugby AU, lets take a look….

REBELS 34 – 30 FORCE

It was a typical scrappy start for the Rebels and the intent from the Force was clear from the outset. The kicking game of Jono Lance took center stage and penalties gifted territory. Eventually the opening point came from the boot of Lance inside the opening ten minutes.

There was a long period of pressure the Force had to withstand following the opening points, the Rebels camped themselves down in the Force twenty two. After a few missed chances and the Force only hanging on by a thread, the first try of the day came from a tricky scrum set play that allowed Tom Pincus to sweep under the posts untouched to put the Rebels in front.

The kickoffs have been a constant issue for most sides in Super Rugby AU and just like the Rebels first try, the Force hit back much in the same light. Getting the ball back from the restart and setting some good lines in motion. A half break from Lance set the Force forward, then fullback Jack McGregor stood up the defence and perfectly played a short ball to Henry Teafu to go through cleanly and put the Force back in front of the battle.

Some superb kick chase defence allowed Matt To’omua the chance to extend the lead, which was successful from the tee. The wind at the back of the Rebels proving vital in the kicking battle.

Ian Priors charged down kick inside his twenty two was the last thing the Force needed after half an hour of the game. Loosehead prop Cameron Orr picked up the unlikely regather and threw and even more unlikely floating wide pass the Reece Hodge way out on the left side. With plenty of work still to do and a number of defenders hanging on, Hodge still managed to reach out to put it on the line.

In the shadows of the half time break the Force took a leaf out of the Brumbies set piece play book. From the lineout just ten meters from the Rebels like, Andrew Ready sat at the back of his sides destructive maul that smashed its way to the line for a crucial late try in the half.

The Force doing enough to stay in the game and just wont let the Rebels get away. 20-13 at the break lead for the Rebels but the Force playing one of the best half so far this season.

The second half kicked off just as the first ended, the Force uninterested in kicking points now and kept forcing the game into the corner. Another maul just five out this time, the Force attempted the same job as before the break. It wasnt as pretty, but it was just as effective. Ready with his second try in five minutes off the maul and the Force were right back in the contest, levelling the scores at 20-20.

The TMO was kept busy throughout the game, the Rebels being denied a few tries from the man upstairs.

The nerves were starting to set in for the Rebels now as the Force took the lead back again through the boot of Prior.

Straight off the restart things took a turn for the worst for the Rebels Tom Pincus was sent to the bin for intentional knock on with the Force hot on attack.

The Force made the number pay soon after, Brynard Stander getting the reward for some hard pack work with a series of pick and goes from the Force close to the line. Stander has been in incredible form this season and has put him side in a commanding position with an ten point lead.

The game is kicking off at this point. Just one minute later, the Rebels hit right back. Three men set about a kick return with two touches each to score the try. Dane Haylett-Petty launched the counter attack, finding Marika Koroibete and Reece Hodge on the right edge. Hodge cut back inside, hitting the speedy Koroibete and with good reward to following the play, Haylett-Petty backed up for the overlap to grab a fantastic try out of nothing.

Momentum, swings and changes. That last try effected the change. The restart again, Matt Philip went up and Bryon Ralston went straight in to whip him out. There was no hesitation for Gardner who sent hims straight to the bin to give us some fourteen on fourteen rugby.

Time was against the Rebels who no matter how hard they tried, just couldnt breach that Force defence again as the clock ticked on. Both sides getting to nervous of the result to make any effect.

The Rebels spent nearly the whole last ten minutes inside the Force half and mostly inside the twenty two. The TMO denied them another couple of times as the clock continued to tick on. Fergus Lee-Warner was the third man sent to the bin tonight, costing the Force a man for the final five minutes.

The Force hung on until there was just seventy seconds remaining. Another good lesson was learnt the Rebels were denied another try but replacement prop Cabous Eloff continues on and places it simply as you like while everyone else stares at the referee for the first attempt. More TMO time and this time reward for the Rebels and the lead goes to two points and the kick to come. Remember, the Rebels needing to win by four to get into the finals.

To’omua does not disappoint from right in front and puts the Rebels into the finals for their first time in history. How they managed it is still largely a mystery, the Force were fantastic throughout but the Rebels just had the final one minute of play. It was everything we hoped this game would be, the fairy tale not quite coming true, but a great way to kick off a day of rugby!

One man is key for this Rebels team and that is Matt To’omua. Goal kicking was eventually the difference with Prior missing two conversions and To’omua not missing any. His command of the team was a highlight this week again. Matt Philip is becoming a critical player for the Rebels pack. A few weeks ago he was a top performer, now hes a team leader and that was clear to see once again.

The Force were so good, there best eighty minutes this season without a doubt. Even a fair Rebels fan would say they deserved to win this one. Take away the yellow card, Fergus Lee-Warner was fantastic yet again. Versatile as well for the second or back row in the team, strong carrier and defensive and break down presence. Two tries for a hooker that’s not in the Brumbies deserves a mention, Andrew Ready back in the Force team with a statement.

REDS 26 – 7 BRUMBIES

There was nothing on the line tonight between these two sides, with the Brumbies already confirmed top place finishers and the Reds in behind at second regardless of results, but the two sides still named full strength lineups for the final clash of the regular season.

Jock Campbell was an early difference between to two sides and a couple of good breaks set the Reds up on a good attack. It was the third consecutive Campbell break that finally resulted in the Reds getting over the line, captain Liam Wright in support this time to finish the job and the Reds strike first.

Tevita Kuridrani was finally entrusted back into the starting lineup this week but butchered a fantastic try by being so lacklustre on his put down and some desperate defence from Tate McDermott did enough for the ball to be lost in the chase. Really was an amazing break from the Brumbies with offloads all over the place and perfection support play, a real shame it went unrewarded.

James O’Connor and the Reds continued to add scoreboard pressure through the tee, with a couple more penalties as the half wore on.

The Brumbies were especially wasteful in the first forty, basic knock on’s, backline depth concerns and just a lack of basic skill sets.

The set piece and the Reds worked well again, exploiting the Brumbies defence angling in on the backline with some quick passing and Jock Campbell again broke the outside channel and freed away Chris Feauai-Sautia to score on his return and put the Reds in a commanding lead. 18-0 just before half time.

The half time buzzer had rung but the Brumbies finally stuck something together and it all resulted with Pete Samu rampaging on the left wing yet again. His change of direction and support keeping the defence honest allowed Samu to burn his way through to give the Brumbies something to work on from the first half.

Its not often the Brumbies get within five meters of the try line and don’t turn it into some kind of points. Its been a really off game tonight by this whole Brumbies team as they have messed up many close chances losing a number of possessions in the Reds twenty two. Their attack has been flat and easy to read by the Brumbies.

Ticking over the scoreboard is the objective for the Reds, O’Connor the man again to add three more and puts the lead in a position that would require the Brumbies to score three times to take the lead.

While we can talk about how poor the Brumbies have been with ball in hand, most of the credit needs to go to that Reds defence inside its own danger zone. To be able to shut down the Brumbies pack just a few meters out multiple times during the second half was been nothing short of sensational.

The Reds seal the deal following up some terrible high ball defence from the Brumbies. Bryce Hegarty went high and youngster Bayley Kuenzle made a complete hash of it, allowing it past and to bounce up perfectly for the chasing McDermott to grab yet another try for his season.

Its been some display by the Reds but quite some shocker by the Brumbies, 26-7 final score is a fairly fair scoreline too. The Reds defence was sensational and they made points from a good number of chances they were gifted. Was good to see Chris Feauai-Sautia return with a try, Filipo Daugunu was outstanding in open play as well but it was the pack they stood up to the show and put in the display to lead the side. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright, Harry Wilson and the front row were all fantastic.

Rob Valetini and Pete Samu kept the Brumbies standard high but they were far too lonely in the task. They have massive issues in midfield with no one standing up in that thirteen jumper, Tevita Kuridrani was again poor tonight. The lack of depth at ten was also found out with Kuenzle having a poor game, unable to get the backline in motion.

We will see the Brumbies in the grand final in two weeks time and the Reds will face the Rebels next weekend for a place to meet them there. I can guarantee if these two sides meet again in the final, it will be a much much different game.

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

Who’s Next Down South- A Look at Who Could be the New Highlanders Coach

After three years of backwards movement, Aaron Mauger has lost his job with the Highlanders. Towards the end of the season, the Highlanders had a mini-revival, but it was not enough to save his job. I have already done an article on why I thought Mauger should have been sacked, but I am a little surprised he has had the flick. In all fairness, the rugby the Highlanders played in the second half against the Chiefs and beyond looked a lot more like a Tony Brown-style than the slow, laborious, “Mauger-Ball.” One might suggest Brown took more control, therefore rendering anything that happened thereafter redundant in Mauger’s pursuit of a new deal. So, what happens now? The question now is not just who, but what. In this article, I am going to look at five options, and look at everything they would bring to the table

TONY BROWN

The one people feel to be the most obvious, sticking with the status quo in Tony Brown. Brown is universally loved by the Highlanders fans, having played 91 games for the franchise, to go along with four seasons as an assistant coach and one as the head coach. He is a popular figure, having brought the Highlanders some of their best results, including the 2015 title. His game plan involves flair and risk, something the Highlanders failed to show until their last three and a half games under Mauger. To me, it looked like Brown was having much more of an imprint on the game plan towards the season end, as we saw them put together an amazing performance to dismantle the Hurricanes to cap off the season. The players and fans love Brown, so it there any downsides? The answer is there are no obvious ones. He is reasonably inexperienced as a head coach; however, he has tasted plenty of success and in his one season as the head coach of the Highlanders, the side went 11-4 before falling in a rain-soaked Christchurch. The one major red flag would be whether Brown wants it. My gut feeling is, that Brown perhaps prefers being an assistant in a similar mould to Wayne Smith. With the complications of COVID, this feels the most likely. Appointing Brown, would also likely mean the appointment of a defence coach, but that is a story for another day.

JOE SCHMIDT

Option two, seems very unlikely so I will keep it brief- Joe Schmidt. The Kiwi is currently unemployed following a very productive seven-year spell with the Irish national side, in which they played some of the best rugby in their history, in which they achieved some of their best results. Schmidt has recently been linked to a job at World Rugby, but if COVID was to throw a spanner into the works, then he may well take interest in a potential shift south. Under Schmidt, the rugby was reasonably structured, however, there was also a touch of class and flair that is important in the Southern Hemisphere. Schmidt has never head coached in New Zealand at the top level and has not held an assistant role since 2007. He spent time with the Bay of Plenty between 2003-2004, before a three-year stint as an assistant for the Blues. This might mean he is slightly out of touch with the New Zealand game, and having had their hands burned by a Northern Hemisphere coach in Mauger, and seeing the disaster with Warren Gatland, I would expect the Highlanders to steer clear of this.

MARK OZICH

By far the biggest wild card out of the five options, Hawke’s Bay head coach Mark Ozich presents an interesting option. After a stint as backs coach, Ozich took the head coach role in 2018. In his first year, they were a defensive mess, going 5-5 before crashing out in the semi-final, 20-19 against Otago. Last year, they were much improved. The side went 7-1-2, playing some scintillating rugby as they suffered loses to championship winner the Bay of Plenty, and premiership champion, Tasman. They also lost the Championship final to the Bay of Plenty. The brand of rugby would certainly fit in down south and if he was to get the job you would be guaranteed to see more of young Folau Fakatava, although this may happen anyway. A red mark against Ozich is his obvious inexperience, and with Tony Brown being so crucial to what the Highlanders do, an inexperienced coach who has never worked with Brown may not be the best fit. Having opted for a coach with relative inexperience in Mauger, they obviously weren’t successful, but Jamie Joseph did not have a lot of experience when appointed in 2011, so this may be a moot point. Ozich is probably still slightly too raw, so all things considered he is unlikely to be the man for the Southerners, but equally he certainly has a big coaching future.

BEN HERRING

Another man who I feel would be well received in the South is Ben Herring. Following two relatively successful years with Otago, in which he secured the Ranfurly Shield, Herring decided to take a year’s adventure travelling around America. This saw him pick up some light work with the Free Jacks in Major League Rugby, but COVID put an end to that. Whilst coaching Otago, the rugby was electric- something very similar to the rugby played under Tony and Corey Brown. The style would fit in perfectly with Brown’s model and what most Highlanders fans want to see. Currently living in Wanaka, in a recent interview with Stuff, he stated he would return to coaching if the right job offer came along. This is surely that offer. Herring played three games for the Highlanders back in 2003 and did a bit of consultancy work for them around 2015 so he already has some links to the franchise. Like Ozich, he is relatively inexperienced, but he has been around the world and is slightly older which cancels those worries out. If Brown does not want the head coaching role, then I feel this is the most plausible option.

JAMIE JOSEPH

No, your eyes are not fooling you, I feel there is a chance Jamie Joseph could make an emotional return to the Highlanders. Joseph obviously had a well-publicised stint with the franchise between 2011-2016, most memorably winning the Southerners their maiden title. Loved by players and fans alike- just like Brown, not many would have reservations around a return. Currently, he is signed as the Japan coach, but with the complications of COVID meaning, he can’t currently enter Japan, could that all fall through? Joseph works well with Brown and brings a wealth of experience. He gave the Highlanders an identity and would be well received, but should the franchise look backwards? Some might argue they have done that with Brown, but he definitely had unfinished business, after leaving in 2017. It would not be my preference to look backwards even though I rate Joseph as a coach very highly. I actually believe he should have secured the All Blacks job last year. I do also think it may be too complicated for him to get out of his Japan contract.

Ultimately, the Highlanders are faced with a decision, that they don’t have an awfully long time to make. Chances are Herring and Brown are the only two in the mix for the role, but Schmidt, Ozich, Joseph and potentially other people like Tom Donnelly could end up sticking their hands up. Whatever the case as long as Brown keeps a large involvement the Southerners a heading in the right direction. In 2021, I am expecting to see around ten new players, joining the new coach. Billy Harmon has already been announced, and the rumour is the Highlanders were scraping the bottom of the barrel with potential signings. As a devout fan, I hope this is not the case and whoever the new coach us leads us to glory!

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SUPER RUGBY AU – Round Ten Preview

Its being pumped up as Super Saturday this weekend as the Final round of Super Rugby AU takes place all on the same night! It is the game of the round which kicks off the weekend when the third place decider takes place between the Rebels and the Force. The North vs South game is squeezed in the middle with a potential grand final match up takes place between the Reds and the Brumbies. Lets check out the action….

REBELS vs FORCE – McDonald Jones Stadium

The situation is simple here for the Rebels, win the game by at least four points and they in rocking their way into the playoffs against the Reds. If the unthinkable happens and the Force pick up their first win of the season, the Rebels are out and the Waratahs will take on the Reds next weekend.

The stats put this game into an interesting light on this clash with the Rebels being the biggest kicking side from hand in the competition, up against the Force who are the team who spends the most time defending. How these two sides play will be a big factor, if the Rebels allow lots of ball to the Force they could make something of the opportunities.

Building on that stat, its clear the Rebels play a good territory game with the tandem kicking options and building pressure down in attacking areas is sure to allow them to cash in on the errors the Force seem to consistently dish out. Their backline should be good enough to finish the chances but it all comes down to which Force will show up and can they start with the early season bang they were delivering?

There is a lot counting against the Force again this week, like every other. If rugby was a fifty or sixty minute game, the Force may have a win or two under their belt. They are good enough to win games but fail to play a full eighty minutes, commit too many errors and need more commitment from the big names they have to lead this team forward.

This should be down to who wants it more and it should be simple to say the Rebels. They held on enough to give themselves a much more obvious chance to make the top three and couldn’t have asked for an easier way to finish their season, but they still need to be clinical. Be desperate and make a statement.

RESULT – Rebels by 11

REDS vs BRUMBIES – Suncorp Stadium

This one doesn’t matter so much but I am still quite interested in how these two sides go about naming their teams. The Reds know they will have to play next weekend, but dont need anything from this game to get to that point. On the other hand, the Brumbies know they have the weekend off before the big final.

Injuries are a huge point on this game. Is it worth either side risking key players in this game, or can they afford to mess up the team continuity that they have built up over the season?!

I’m expecting the Brumbies to make a number of changes, mainly because they can with the depth in their squad. They do not need to though, with that extra weekends break they will be fresh and ready for a final. They cant afford to be without a guy like Bayley Kuenzle while they wait on Noah Lolosio to return, but they may have both for the final. That’s one of the rare spots that are shallow for the Brumbies.

What they do need to discover this weekend that may prove beneficial is finding someone to really nail does that thirteen jumper. Firstly Tevita Kuridrani held it unopposed for week on week before they mixed things up and put Solomone Kata in there, to much the same effect. When a player like Kuridrani, or anyone in that position, is on form it evolves that backline and they need to find that lacking power again. Do they Brumbies really need it to with Super Rugby AU? Not really, but in a competition they have been daylight ahead of for most of, there has been few holes to find.

The Reds have had a fantastic season this year. They don’t need to win this weekend, but with the mental side of the game being so important, a heavy loss with large rotation could be very detrimental to the side.

Against that point however, having the best side running out again this weekend before going into a finals series could see major injuries and players fitness being tested for the games that really matter. The Reds dont have the depth of sides like the Brumbies but I feel they need to make sure they have their strongest side fit and ready for the playoff next weekend. If it means learning a lesson against the Brumbies, maybe so be it.

This game all pivots of squad selections and who is rested and risked before the knockout stages begin. With nothing at stake, will the coaches take the risk?

RESULT – Brumbies by 2

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

SUPER RUGBY AU – Round Nine Review

It was a huge weekend of Super Rugby in Australia, where with just a couple of rounds remaining, the teams were starting to fall in place. The Brumbies had a chance to secure top spot in the conference against the Force on Friday night. The big game was on Saturday however, when the Rebels faced the Waratahs with the two sides fighting over the third place. The Waratahs needing a win to keep their season alive while they spend the last round on the bye. Lets take a look at the fixtures…..

BRUMBIES 31 vs FORCE 14

It was the Brumbies night to seal top spot in the competition with a round still remaining if they topple the winless Force in the opening game of the weekend and they started off with their usual control, even getting a penalty to the corner in the opening few minutes that sent ominous early signs…..

But the Force held very strong early on and after some early pressure managed to fight their way back with a run of penalties from the set piece and breakdown. Set with a chance inside the Brumbies twenty two, it was a simple game plan for the Force, keep it short, keep it in hand. Fergus Lee-Warner manages to stretch through the tackle and plant it down for the opening try and a 7-0 surprise lead.

The Brumbies battle their way back into the game and spend a good period on attack and even cross the line twice but were denied both times by the TMO for a knock on and an obstruction.

The Brumbies kept pounding away on attack and did eventually break through the Force defence, from range thing time, launching an attack from their own half. Some flashing offloading and a big bust from Will Miller created the overlap for Tom Wright to score on the left edge, but the conversion was away, quite some way away too.

With the half running to its end, the Brumbies completely dominate the match up. Constantly with ball in hand and on the attack putting pressure on the Force inside their own half. Half time could not come soon enough for the visitors, but not before the Brumbies put their second try on the board. The defence was starting to get broken and the speed on Tom Banks was too much after he spots half a gap. Hes rockets home to give the Brumbies a slender lead at the break, despite another missed conversion.

Breaking into the second half, the Brumbies continued to pile on the pressure using their pack. Much like the first half ended, it was the Brumbies who added another try to their total thanks for Will Miller on the left wing. The flanker having a clean five meter run on the outside edge untouched. The perfect times to score, just before and just after half time.

The Force struck back quickly, taking a quite tap from a lineout penalty they smashed their way into the Brumbies danger zone and within just a few phases, Jono Lance slipped through some lazy defence to bring the Force right back into the game. Again, kicking critical as Prior added the extras.

When it almost looked like the Force could fight their way back into the game, the Brumbies completely shut the gate in the final twenty minutes. Two more tries went the way of the home side with Len Ikitau and Andy Muirhead touching down in the final stanza to put it far beyond doubt with a scoreline that almost flattered the hosts.

The Brumbies just know how to win and how to pace their game, something the Force are yet to understand. Irae Simone was a playmaking standout for the Brumbies and the way he partnered with Tom Wright was some class Brumbies back play we don’t see enough.

The Force lacked the commitment once again but showed that early season ability to score tries that had left them for the last few weeks. Key for them was the territorial kicking by Jono Lance that made a massive difference. The front row along with Ollie Atkins in the second is starting to become a strong unit, they just need to keep at the first forty minute level all game long.

Final thoughts on this match, it was great to see Amy Perrett become to first female to referee a Super Rugby match and she did a fine job in control on the game, put the players in their place and was solid in her calls. Promising signs from a ref who we should see more of and only get better. Well play Amy.

REBELS 32 vs WARATAHS 38

This is it for the Waratahs, everything is on the line. Fail to win this game and their Super Rugby AU season is over, but even if they do win, it still may not be enough. It was the cracker of a match we had hope this competition may deliver.

It was the Rebels who got off the mark quicker, a couple of penalties against the Waratahs once again gifted their opponent an easy start. Matt To’omua happy as every to slot over an early three point from the tee.

The Rebel obviously felt guilty for the early gift and swiftly gave one or two right back to the Waratahs, who with a set piece a few meters out from the Rebels line, set their forwards to work. A couple of smashes forward until Jake Gordon spotted the sloppy defence around the fringe and snipped over right beside the posts.

It took some time to get enough structure and phases for any chances for points, but the penalties soon mounted up against the Rebels, particularly offsides. Quick ruck recycling from the Waratahs forwards in very similar style to the first try, resulted in the second. That forward play too strong for the Rebels at this stage and Jack Dempsey planted down for the second Waratahs try.

The match took a massive swing in momentum towards the Rebels just minutes before half time when, after a number of phases and advantages five meters from the Waratahs line, Ned Hanigan was sent to the bin for a likely offside. The Rebels instantly obliged to the kind offer with Matt To’omua bashing his way over off a big run in from the boundary. He converted his own try to bring the Rebels within four.

It was surprising there was enough time for this, but the Waratahs managed to nab a quick penalty after the kick off which Will Harrison knocked over to put that lead back out to seven points for the Waratahs at the break, 17-10.

It took just five minutes of the second half for the Rebels to strike again and it was just as Hanigan returned to the field. A leaf taken from the Brumbies handbook on tries, a lineout maul worked enough to set up the tireless Isi Naisarani to spin off the back of the maul and over the line. The Rebel tie things up with the conversion.

Just as quickly as it took to kick a conversion, the Waratahs had struck straight back! Another penalty giving an easy ride into the twenty two and gave the Waratahs the chance to set about from the set piece again. Keeping it tight in the forwards again and Harry Johnson-Holmes burrowed over right under the crossbar, a clinical response!

A nail is slammed into the Rebels hopes of securing playoffs this weekend as the Waratahs strike again. Will Harrison is running the Waratahs backline sweetly and his switching passes slips Michael Hooper into a huge hole who strikes the overlap with Joey Walton to have a clean run to the line for his first every Super Rugby AU try!

Lady luck is shining down on the Rebels in their next try opportunity. Walton is taken out off the ball and allows To’omua to glide through a massive hole, teeing up on the outside with Marika Koroibete who races to the left hand corner, hits into the defenders, stays in the field of play and slides just to the line to get a blade of grass or two on the ball. Game alive again as To’omua converts.

All the hard work may come undone for the Rebels over the next ten minutes. Matt Philip was dished out a yellow card swiftly after the restart for tackling a player in the lineout. Harsh call for something that would normally be a penalty, but can only imagine its for the team warning for penalties in their own half, but not mentioned by the referee.

A man down has lifted the Rebels against all odds! How amazing is it to see these sides lift when the pressure comes against them. The Rebels get lucky after weathering a long storm in their own half and quickly turn it into attack and when the forwards start to rumble they become hard to stop, Naisarani again the man who is just too difficult to tackle that close to the line. The conversion is away to the right and the Waratahs keep the lead by two points.

If a man has every deserved to be a hero for the Waratahs, its Will Harrison! Hooper makes a fantastic charged down of Andrew Deegans clearing kick which sits up perfectly for Harrison who is miles away from any Rebels player and grabs his first and hugely important try.

Back to fifteen men again, the Rebels swiftly get back into the Waratahs half and opt for a shot at three to bring them within six points of the lead.

The Rebels cant get themselves another chance to snatch that lead away and the Waratahs try their best to shut it down. Reece Hodge plays the smart hand inside his own in goal and ends the game with his side behind by six, enough for a bonus point to keep both sides seasons alive. It all comes down to next weekend…..

The Rebels never got on top of this match, were always chasing and kept letting the Waratahs right back in as soon as they scored themselves. Poor focus and silly errors cost the Rebels. Their gameplan was focused around Isi Naisarani and Marika Koroibete on attack and as good a job as they did with all that ball, it was almost to predictable. Brad Wilkin was again fantastic in the breakdown.

The Waratahs play their best rugby with their backs against the wall and we saw that this round. With his first start in Super Rugby, Tepai Moeroa looked to bring things to the game other similar power running midfielders had struggled with all season. He was strong with ball in hand and recycled very quickly. On a night of firsts, it was also great to see the amazing Will Harrison and Joey Walton pick up with first Super Rugby tries. Crucial ones they were too.

So its all down to next weekend, the Western Force have a pile of new fans and the chance to dictate who will make that top three. As always, I will see you for the preview in a couple of days!

Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!

SUPER RUGBY AU – Round Nine Preview

Its a huge weekend for the competition coming up with what could be seen as a quarter final match up on Saturday night between the Rebels and the Waratahs to ultimately decide who will take that third spot into the qualifying final weekend. Before that big game, we have our Friday night feature between the Brumbies and the Force to kick the weekend off. The in form Reds get the weekend to rest and recover. Lets check out the action coming out way…..

BRUMBIES vs FORCE – GIO Stadium

Here is the chalk and cheese match up of Super Rugby AU. Its first against last, the Brumbies who have hardly looked like losing many matches throughout the season and are up against the Force who, lets be honest, aside from their opening couple of shock treatment opening cracks, haven’t looked like they would be beating anyone this season.

The Brumbies have been the team to beat since day one and nothing has changed. They have suffered their wake up call loss to the Rebels a couple of weeks ago and have just stepped since that night. Whats more impressive, or scary for their opponents is how much better they have been scoring tries away from their forward pack and the lineout maul. Its now becoming a case of defences not knowing if they should commit fully to the lineout or keep the cover out wide. As a squad they have tested depth that is now forcing selection headaches and injury cover like Bayley Kuenzle making us forget who Noah Lolesio even is anymore.

The Brumbies have already secured their place in the playoffs and with the second placed Reds on the bye this weekend, will confirm their place as the top finisher with a victory this weekend. In the final game of the season, they meet those Reds which with both sides secure in the finals will leave some interesting selections for both sides who wont want to give anything away ahead of a possible grand final meeting. These two sides met back in round four with a pretty convincing 24-0 victory to the Brumbies, neither side will want to settle for that again.

Its a tough way to wrap up the season for the Western Force, away to the Brumbies and then away again to the Rebels. While I say the Force are away, they have been and will be away all season long which has been a tough deal for a side which has such a passionate home support that could have made a real difference to their performances. The Force are not ones to make excuses though and will be out to win this game regardless.

They need to go back to what was successful back in the early rounds. Sure, they don’t have that surprise factor one how they were going to play that really shock up the their opponents, but the quality of performance has fallen away since then also. Rest and rotation are two words we all dread to see and its something to Force cannot continue to work with. Their backrow is the biggest weapon and that early unit of Stowers, Ferris and Stander needs to be united back together again. Get that territory game running again and get the best out of the finishers like Byron Ralston who has been fantastic this season for the Force. Can they? Yes. Will they? No.

RESULT: Brumbies by 16.

REBELS vs WARATAHS – Leichhardt Oval

One of these two sides will finish in the finals, the other will miss out. That’s the simple situation heading into this big clash of the weekend. Most people will likely recall the last meeting between the two sides where it ended 29-10 to the Rebels with the only Waratahs points from a converted intercept try and and penalty, hardly a contest.

Now the Rebels are back at home as well and the confidence looking back at that match must be overwhelming for them. They have somehow slipped below the Waratahs on the table by one point but a win this weekend will be all they need to secure their place in the finals. The Waratahs sit out next weekends action and the Rebels face the Force, a free four point minimum.

The winning template is already there for the Rebels, especially against the Waratahs. Don’t feed them errors and force to pressure into their own half and the Waratahs have struggle to make anything happen from back there. Their selections will be interesting, they spent last weekend on the bye but recent matches before that they had been moving Matt To’omua out one with mixed results. The continued movement of Reece Hodge is always a worry for the Rebels who keep using one of the key men like putty to fill any gaps and holes in the lineup each week. Hes needs the ball and needs to be in the action. Selection will be key.

Regardless of the Rebels selection, I still think this one will be a tough one for the Waratahs to win. The old firm in their pack just lacks to modern game to compete and will again rely on that mental bully game they have employed all season long to get up over their opponent in the forwards. They are the most penalised team in the competition and if they continue to give away those each yards, they Rebels will turn that scoreboard. One man again is the massive key for the Waratahs in attack, Will Harrision is the only man in my view who has impressive in this Waratahs team and is a leading light for Australian Rugby. He can control a game and a scoreboard if allowed, to keep the Waratahs in a match. The pressure is all on the Waratahs to pick up this win and with the bonus point too and only that will secure their place in the finals in two weeks time.

RESULT: Rebels by 3

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